Chichester soldier's WWI memoirs will "send shiver down your spine"

The World War One memoirs of a Chichester soldier are now available in print.

Monday, 1st June 2020, 6:44 am
Stephen Reynolds
Stephen Reynolds

Arthur: The Great War Memoirs of William Arthur Human is a transcription which will send a shiver down your spine, promises his great grandson Stephen Reynolds.

Stephen has self-published the volume. The ebook and paperback are priced at £2.99 and £9.99 respectively and are available on Amazon.

Arthur was the president of the Chichester branch of the Old Contemptibles Association for many years, a national network of ex-soldiers who fought in the early stages of the Great War. He lived in Westergate until he passed away in 1972.

Stephen, aged 41, who grew up in Barnham, went to school in Chichester and now lives in Bristol, said: “The book covers my great grandfather’s first eight months on the Western Front. He’s a corporal for most of the book and so it’s an authentic account from the front line.

“It’s challenging and incredibly moving, as you’d expect. But it’s really rather special beyond that as well. He was a fantastic writer and the memoirs are so engaging and at times poetic as well as witty.

“It will send shivers down the spine. For this reason, I think the appeal is almost universal. It’s a very human story – no pun intended! But it will also be of particular interest to anyone interested in the history of that conflict.

“It describes a part of the war that’s under-represented in literature. It takes place right from the beginning of the fighting in October of 1914. It also gives a rare account of fighting alongside many different allied nations.

“Arthur himself was stationed in India before the war and was part of the British Army within the Indian Expeditionary Force, who fought alongside Sikh regiments, Gurkhas and Indian troops, as well as English, Scottish and Irish.

“The book features the Battle of Neuve Chappelle, a hugely significant battle in 1915 that is now thought to have shaped much of what was to come in terms of battle strategy. Again, there aren’t many first-hand accounts in existence of this battle. A few military historians have already said some very nice things about the importance of Arthur’s account on various social media platforms.

Stephen added: “Last year my grandma – Arthur’s eldest daughter – sadly passed away. My grandfather came across these memoirs, which took the form of a series of letters Arthur wrote to his family and told me he thought I should do something with them. Really, the book is as much of a tribute to my grandma as it is to Arthur himself. Certainly, her influence is all over the transcription and the sections of the book I wrote around the main memoirs.

“I asked myself what she would want for the book at every step along the way. The transcribing and writing of the book has been one of the most significant experiences of my life to date.

“To realise very early on that I was reading something utterly incredible and something that needed to be read by everyone was really very special. For the six months or so that it took me to transcribe the memoirs and convert the letters into a continuous narrative without changing or missing anything, I was totally engrossed. I was there with Arthur and in the process was getting to know this incredible man who passed away a few years before I was born.

“Beyond the transcription itself, I decided to add more to the book myself, to give the reader a bit more of Arthur’s story later in life. I did this with the help of a fantastic military historian named Andrew Thornton, but also by reconnecting with family across Sussex and beyond to obtain accounts of the great man from those who remember him. This was such a wonderful thing, to get back in touch with family I’d not seen for years and to strengthen ties with those I had stayed in contact with.”

“It was this really rather magical mixture of coming together to pay tribute to this exceptional individual that links us all but also a way for all of us to help deal with our grief at losing my grandma, who was very much the matriarchal figure of that branch of the family. Everyone was involved.

“Arthur’s youngest daughter, Kathleen, who lives in Pagham, wrote the afterword to the book. My grandfather, Arthur’s son-in-law, helped me every step of the way with photographs and memories of the man. And Arthur’s grandchildren: Peter (my dad), Heidi, Judy, Rebecca and Mandy all provided content and were involved throughout. Even beyond that, loads more of Arthur’s family offered support for the project. It was amazing… A real family affair.”

Any profits made are being donated to charity: “I’ve already been able to make a £200 donation to the British Legion. The sole aim from day one has simply been to get Arthur’s incredible story to as many people as possible.”

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